Medical expenses

You can claim medical expenses paid for yourself, your spouse or common-law partner and certain related persons (discussed below).22 Generally, subject to the comments below for other dependants, total eligible medical expenses must first be reduced by 3% of your net income or $2,237, whichever is less. The tax credit is 15% of the amount remaining.

Tax tip: Select your 12-month period to maximize the tax credit. The 12-month period ending in the year may vary from year to year, but you cannot claim the same expense twice. Keep your receipts for next year if some of your 2015 expenses are not claimed as a credit in 2016.

Eligible expenses

The list of eligible medical expenses is extensive and includes23

  • payments to medical practitioners, dentists or nurses, or to public or licensed private hospitals in respect of medical or dental services;
  • additional costs related to the purchase of non-gluten food products;
  • expenses paid for training courses for a tax payer or a related person in respect of the care of a person with a mental or physical impairment, who lives with or is a dependant of the taxpayer;
  • cost of purchased or leased products, equipment or devices that provide relief, assistance or treatment for any illness;
  • cost of blood coagulation monitors for use by individuals who require anti-coagulation therapy, including pricking devices, lancets and test strips;
  • premiums paid to private health insurance plans;
  • expenses incurred after 2013 for specially trained service animals that assist individuals with severe diabetes;
  • remuneration for tutoring persons with learning disabilities, or other mental impairments, if the need for
    such services is certified by a medical practitioner; and
  • reasonable supplemental expenses for the construction or renovation of a residence to enable a person with a serious, prolonged handicap to have access to this residence, to move about therein and to carry out activities of daily living.

For 2014 and later years, the list of eligible medical expenses was expanded to include amounts paid for the design of an individualized therapy plan, where the cost of the therapy itself would be eligible for the credit and certain other conditions are met. In particular, the plan must be designed for an individual who qualifies for the disability tax credit (see Topic 80).

Medical expenses of dependants other than a spouse or common-law partner

Subject to special rules, you may also claim medical expenses you have paid for a dependant. In general, a “dependant” is a person who is dependent on you for support at any time in the year, and who is the child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew of you or your spouse or common-law partner.

Claims for the medical expense credit for minor children are grouped with claims for you and your spouse or common-law partner. Medical expenses paid for other dependant relatives must first be reduced by 3% of that dependant’s net income, to a maximum of $2,208 in 2015.

Tax tip: If you pay medical expenses for a dependant other than your spouse or common-law partner or minor child, the ability to claim a medical expense credit is based on the dependant’s net income, not your own. As a result, even limited payments can qualify where the dependant’s income is quite low. Don’t forget to claim these amounts when you file your tax return.

Refundable medical expense credit

Eligible individuals who have business and/or employment income of at least $3,465 may be able to claim a refundable medical expense supplement. The refundable credit is 25% of medical expenses that qualify for the regular medical expense tax credit, up to a stated maximum. It’s reduced by 5% of the taxpayer’s (and spouse or common-law partner’s) income in excess of a specified amount ($26,277 per family). This credit is in addition to the tax credit for medical expenses. The maximum refundable medical expense supplement is $1,187 for the 2016 taxation year.

What you cannot claim as medical expenses

Many items do not qualify as medical expenses—for example, non-prescription birth control devices, drugs and medications that you can purchase without a prescription, funeral and burial costs, and gym memberships, to name a few. In addition, you cannot claim medical expenses for which you are reimbursed or are entitled to be reimbursed. Amounts paid for purely cosmetic procedures (including related services and other expenses such as travel) are not eligible for the medical expense tax credit unless they’re required for medical or reconstructive purposes.

Attendant care in a retirement home

In general, payments made to a nursing home or long-term care facility qualify for the medical expense tax credit, provided the individual meets all the criteria to claim the disability tax credit. The issue has been less clear with respect to amounts paid to a retirement home. However, it is the CRA’s position that seniors who live in a retirement home and are eligible for the disability tax credit can claim attendant care expenses as medical expenses. The maximum amount that can be claimed under this provision is $10,000 per year ($20,000 in the year of death).

To make the claim, you must have a receipt from the retirement home showing the portion paid for attendant care and be eligible for the disability tax credit.

22 The reference period is 24 months in the year of death of the taxpayer or a dependant.

23 Certain conditions have to be met. Details are provided in government publications, including the list of eligible medical expenses published by the CRA at: